How much should we pay?
As the season draws to a close, attention is inevitably turning to the summer where the impending transfer window brings with it the usual frenzy. Bogus media speculation will clog the back pages while blind hope among those fans who believe that spending money is the only route to success will cloud the twittersphere.
At the centre of the melee will be clubs, attempting to negotiate a path littered with obstacles and inconsistency – sweet-talking agents hoping to secure the best deal for their clients and selling clubs hoping to squeeze buyers until their ‘pips squeak’. It is no wonder that transfer deals and player contracts are threaded with complexity.
So how can clubs best prepare for the challenges ahead? One way is to establish a budget for each target based on the role they are expected to fulfil. This can be done through establishing how much a first team minute is worth to our club.
Let’s imagine that we are a Premier League club with a total wage bill of £62.5m, of which c. 60% is apportioned to our first team. Given that there are 37,620 minutes first team minutes throughout the course of a league campaign (11 players, 38 games of 90 minutes each) we can estimate that the value of one pitch minute is roughly £1,000 (£37.5m / 37,620 minutes).
Let’s now use this to apply some budget thresholds in the transfer market using some hypothetical case studies:
Clearly, this is not perfect – you can’t expect to pay a fringe player nothing just because he might not play. There are also other ways that players can add value to a club outside of playing (leadership off the field, experience etc.) which carry a monetary value. Clubs may wish to ‘overpay’ to sign a marquee name and the market also assigns different values by position.
But this does give us a starting point by providing some rational, objective grounding to any negotiation, while forcing clubs to carefully consider the role that any transfer target is expected to fulfil. It would also require clubs to proactively justify wage demands that fall outside of these thresholds.
Given the challenges that lie ahead, having a logical, objective process gives us a starting point for negotiations, and when the summer heat is on, it may just help clubs stick to the plan.